Grand Am Cup Series

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This is a slightly modified stock multi-make race series which offers entry level professional racing. The body tries to keep the cars competitive by adding weight to faster cars. This ensures fair facing.

Here is an interview with Adam Friedman of Autometrics Motorsports. He was kind enough to do an interview with us on what Grand Am Cup racing is all about as well as what it's like to race in it.


Interview with Adam Friedman of Autometrics Motorsports

Hi, can you introduce yourself to the Trackpedia community?

My name’s Adam Friedman, and I’m the Engineer for Autometrics Motorsports, a race team in Charleston, SC specializing in Porsches. I have a Mechanical Engineering degree from Clemson University. I am a partner in Autometrics along with my brother, Cory and father, Gordon. We have been competing in the Grand American Rolex series since 2001. In 2005, we finished 3rd in the Rolex Series GT Team Championship, and we also campaigned a 996 in the Grand Am Cup (GAC) Series. In 2006, we have been working with Marcus Motorsports, running 997’s in GAC.

So, what's it been like racing in Grand Am cup?

GAC is a great entry-level Professional Racing Series. The fields are huge and diverse, and the racing is very close and exciting. This season has been good, but some (though I hate to use the term) bad luck has cost us a few podiums, and possibly the Championship.

The cars are supposed to be stock. How close are they to the street cars? What kinds of modifications are allowed?

The Porsches are reasonably close to stock. All 996 and 997 start as street cars. The interiors are stripped and custom roll cages are welded in. The minimum weight is as high as the street car, so interior removal is more for fire safety than for weight savings. The only legal modifications to increase power are an airbox, ECU re-flash, and exhaust after the stock header. The transmission is stock, except that a better differential can be used. Shocks, springs and sway bars are free, and some of the rubber bushings can be replaced with plastic (no monoballs). The lower control arms and toe links are GT3 parts. The stock fuel tank is also retained, but the volume is displaced down a bit and a single dry-break and discriminator/vent valve are added. All of the windows are glass, and many of the climate control components are even left in place. The Mustangs and many BMWs are not built from street cars, but rather they are built up from a caged tubs and feature fewer production car parts than the Porsches.

What advantages do the GT3 lower arms and toe links offer?

The GT3 has split lower control arms. You can lengthen the arms by adding shims, and this provides more range of adjustment for camber. The toe links have a monoball and improved geometry at the lower ride height.

The 996 cars that you race don't suffer from any oil starvation issues as they are rumoured on the web community to suffer from?

The ’99 996’s certainly had issues, but by ’01, it seems they have all been worked out. We ran a 3.4ltr engine with no issues, and later upgraded that car to a 3.6. We never had engine problems with either. The 997 engine is very similar to the late 996 3.6, and while we lost 2 engines at the beginning of the season, a single engine has lasted almost the whole year. The engines are not indestructible, but since ’01, blowing up engines seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

Have you seen much of an improvement on the 997 versus 996 cars? Do the 997s have additional penalties over the 996s to balance it out?

While the drivetrain is virtually identical, the 997 is a dramatically different car from the 996 in the suspension. We began the year attempting to use known 996 set-ups on the car, and we realized quickly that was not going to work. Once we got things sorted, the 997 is every bit as capable as the 996 (with the exception of PASM). The strongest Porsche teams are running 997s, and as a result, the 997 has been nailed with additional weight penalties. As the GAC rules are written now, I believe the 996 is the quicker car. Earlier this season, when the weights were closer, the 997 had the advantage. Grand Am typically uses weight to balance competition.

You race Porsche 996 and 997 cars. How does Grand Am Cup compare with Porsche Club of America racing? Are they compatible from a rules point of view?

GAC in my opinion, is an entry-level Professional series, meaning it is a great step up from club racing, but still not on par with the Rolex Series or Speed WC. Good Club Racers certainly hold their own in GAC, but the best times are always put down by legitimate pros. As far as rules go, there is little compatibility between the rules. The interior removal is the primary factor keeping a GAC car out of PCA racing, as it pushes the car up to an uncompetitive class. Aside from that, a PCA car should be faster because they are allowed to run headers, monoballs, lower ride height, bigger diameter wheels and larger tires. PCA cars even run at a lower minimum weight and are allowed factory options, like X51. However, GAC cars are typically more developed than a Club car, so they’ll typically run faster than a comparable PCA car.

What kinds of safety features do you add to the cars?

Due to the high minimum weight, teams add substantial roll cages. Unlike bolting more lead in, adding some additional bars to the cage adds both safety and rigidity to the chassis. Other than the cages, harnesses, kill switches, fire systems and window nets are not unlike those you’ll find in most any racing series.

How long do you let the cars warm up before racing them?

Our dyno testing has shown that the car makes optimum power with the engine relatively cool. Consequently, for qualifying, we keep the engine as cool as possible, often pushing it to the staging area. For practice and the race, we let the engine warm up a bit longer.

When did you start using Head & Neck restraints and what kind of impact have they had on the sport?

I attended a seminar a few years back, right around the time Grand Am started to mandate H&N restraints. This information is readily available now, but at the time it was an eye-opener. I recommend anyone racing in any class use a HANS (or comparable device). I would like to see every sanctioning body mandate H&N restraints. There really is no reason not to.

What kind of tires do you run on the car and how do they behave over a race? What temperatures and hot pressures would you expect on a dry track?

GAC runs on a spec Hoosier. They are 245 front and 275 rear on 17” wheels. The tire is most like the DOT R6, but it differs in a few ways. It has the ghost tread like the old R3S03 had, but without the circumferential grooves. The compound is also quite a bit harder than the R6, but when they heat up, they stick incredibly well and last even better. You’ll never wear the rubber off, and it is not unreasonable to run them for 2 hours straight. An R6 will probably put down a single faster lap, but in an endurance race, the GAC tire will be faster overall than an R6 of the same size.

The tires seem to work best between 38-40psi, and temps will vary from 180 to over 250 degrees F, in extreme cases.

What's your favorite tracks to race on?

As a crewmember, the view’s almost always the same from pit lane :( Paved paddocks, nice facilities and being able to see some of the action go a long way. Frankly, how you do in the race is probably the primary factor. Phoenix this year had probably the worst conditions imaginable (100+ temperatures, and our paddock was outside the speedway), but we won that race, so everyone went home smiling.

Which tracks present the most difficulties from a setup point of view?

Rovals (oval tracks with a road course) offer a pretty unique challenge. Half of the track is fast and banked, while the other half is slow and tight. The biggest concern is keeping the rear tires from overheating. Excessively bumpy tracks like Lime Rock can also be difficult because you have to compromise handling with compliance.

For someone starting to track their cars? Which modifications would you advise in order as they become more skilled?

One of the first things you need to do is determine what your ultimate goal is. Buying dual-purpose parts only to replace them with dedicated race parts can be very costly. This sport is expensive enough without buying upgrades more than once. Sway Bars are an excellent first modification, as they dramatically improve the performance without costing much (relatively) and without compromising day-to-day ride quality. R-Compound tires should wait until you know you are getting everything out of street tires. Competition brake pads should go along with sticky tires. Beyond that, shocks, springs and safety equipment come in, but that is where you should have a clear goal in mind with that car. Horsepower and big brakes are pretty low on the list. Avoid hardware upgrades to compensate for driver inexperience. Also, keep in mind that everyone learns different, and this will not work for everyone. One of the best drivers I know started in a 993 Supercup.

What advice would you offer to young drivers looking to get a break in series like this?

It is no secret that the majority of drivers in the series are renting seats. Drivers aspiring to break into the series need to display their skills, and using personal money or sponsorship to rent a ride is a common way to get that exposure. If you do not have that resource, it is still possible to get a ride. There are many drivers not listed on the entry list that I see at the track every week. Those guys are making contacts and keeping their name and face fresh in the minds of teams. Being in the right place at the right time has lead a few drivers into positions that their resume does not merit. The most common way to get the big break is through personal driver coaching. Many driving teams consist of a Gentleman driver (providing the funding) and his driving coach.